The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon
Audemars Piguet is widely acknowledged as the first watchmaker to have introduced a luxury steel sports watch. Somebody out there might disagree but this a fact and the story behind this achievement is described in a special section of the official website and tells the true story about the original Royal Oak, the first ever timepiece retailed at that time at the same price tag of a gold watch.
In Le Brassus they dared but were successful: creating an uncommon design (at the time) crafted in steel as well as they did with gold or platinum while adding a superb mechanics, ending up with a package that could easily convey the idea of luxury through a timepiece I often see wrapped around a friend's wrist during his weekly tennis match. Stainless steel in Le Brassus is so precious that not only has Audemars Piguet been a pioneer in using it, paving the road to its diffusion in the luxury and accessories world but, moreover, has chosen it even when it comes to Haute Horlogerie, that in a connoisseur's vocabulary has just mostly two meanings: Minute Repeater and Tourbillon.
Audemars Piguet leads in Tourbillon making as it offered the first ever automatic extra-plate timepiece with a Tourbillon launched in 1986; it featured an endless series of world's firsts: thinnest tourbillon thanks to a case just 5,5mm thick, tourbillon cage made out of titanium, 7,2mm wide and 2,5mm high, a total of 120 parts, all in all a world champion of miniaturization and rationalization.
Nearly 30 years later the Audemars Piguet's line-up counts many tourbillons and five out of them are part of the Royal Oak collection while just one, extra-thin, represents at the same time the legacy of its first tourbillon and the successor to the original Royal Oak. Comparing this model to the three hands extra-thin Royal Oak, its case grows to a 8,85mm thickness and widens to 41mm, the upper limit for a classic timepiece and a Royal Oak: it is maybe the perfect match between the design language of this model and the size of caliber 2924 with tourbillon placed at 6.
This caliber is 31,50mm wide, 4,46mm thick and has 216 parts, with the balance wheel vibrating at 3Hz. It is visible via the case back where you can admire its ¾ bridge, Cotes de Genéve decorated and the tiny 70 hours power reserve indicator. On the wrist the Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Royal Oak Extra-Thin is simply spectacular and you'll never get tired of it.
Its dial features exactly the same blue dial matching the original Royal Oak and the combination between a flat sapphire crystal and the petit-tapisserie motif provides that unmistakable look you may find with any Royal Oak: the almost total absence of dial depth gives the impression that you can touch the dial with a fingertip. Finding a flaw in such a timepiece is quite a challenge, as this timepiece is superbly finished and looks familiar at first glance.
You should be just among those who do not like a Royal Oak at all; a very fussy guy, as I am sometimes, could long for a brighter dial that might split the square dial design from the circular like of the tourbillon and create, therefore, a cleaner and less crowded package.
But going into details you can easily get Octavio Garcia, Chief Artistic Officer at Audemars Piguet has overcome this apparent inconsistency too by attaching the tourbillon cage to the dial via two small brackets in the shape of the applied gold indexes.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Audemars Piguet; Google; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®